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Archive for August, 2011

As I was staying close to home on a weekend, I decided to take a new camera out for a hunt to photograph a couple different sports. After biking to the farmers market I left the bike to continue on foot up the Chimney Gulch Trail to its first intersection with Lookout Mountain Road. Tomorrow this road will be the scene of the final hill climb in the US Pro Cycling Challenge, but today it was open to a King of the Mountain Citizens Race.

Hiking back down the hill I took a slightly wrong turn to find a tandem paraglider in their landing pattern just above my head.

My final stop was the Clear Creek Whitewater Park which thankfully had a few play boats enjoying the obstacles.

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Crystal Lake

Photos from a short hike to Crystal Lake near Breckenridge, Colorado.

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Pete had been out of commission for climbing for a couple months now but was finally able to get back on the rock. A few easy flatiron routes seemed like the ideal plan for the day. After a short hike and bushwhack we arrived at the base of the Front Porch and found the start of the two-pitch Tiptoe Slab (5.3) route.

A little run-out, the climbing was still easy and my only complication was finding an adequate crack for a belay anchor. Rumor is there is one bolt on this first pitch, but I didn’t find it (I did find an unneeded bolt on pitch two – not far from a protect-able crack). Pitch two was even easier and we did the short rappel from a tree on the west side while looking ahead at the Lost and Back Porch formations.

For Lost Porch we dropped our packs and the rope near the toe of the north east ridge and scrambled up in our approach shoes to tag the summit before reversing our route and hiking uphill to Back Porch.

Finding the 2-foot arch that marked the start of the East Face route, I led up through the layback “roof” and to a slightly shaded belay to combine the first two pitches in one. One more longer pitch led through the short roof crux (5.6) and on to the summit.

Two rappels brought us down, with the second being a fairly awkward slung arch that you start on top off before reverse-mantling to get onto the rappel.

It turned out to be a perfect weather day with a chance for me to tick another one of Roach’s Top Ten Flatiron routes (East Face on Back Porch marks my 7th of his 10 select routes).

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A mellow day sport climbing with friends up in Boulder Canyon was the agenda for Sunday, but the presence of a few bolted cracks was enough of a red flag in my face to justify hauling the trad rack up to the Sport Park. The 5.7/8 crack, Wise Crack, was the first route I climbed (all on gear) while Tara took a lap to clean.

Not enjoying cracks like I do, I promised to pack away the rack for the rest of the day and we joined Jenn and Jeremy over at the Clocktower where I led three sport climbs: Weasel in the Chicken Coop, Mommy Blocker and Chicken Hawk – all 5.9/10a.

My friends joked that God must be killing a puppy each time I clipped a bolt since I’m really a trad climber. A few sprinkles started to turn into a steady rain, and I took that as another sign that I shouldn’t be sport climbing and we bailed for the day. The first bang of thunder hit as we were crossing back across Boulder Creek.

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Settling on a mellower day, Jeremy and I headed up Boulder Canyon to Cob Rock for a several hours of 2 pitch rock climbs. The tyrolean crossing of Boulder Creek had been moved up about a foot, maybe to avoid the <A HREF="http://vimeo.com/12393948"standing wave that threatens the crosser in high water.

Only one other group was at the formation when we arrived and they were starting up North Face Center. My tick list for Cob Rock still had Northwest Corner (5.8), so we geared up for that and I got the first pitch lead.

Jeremy took the rack (he would only need about 5 pieces) and started up the second short pitch to the summit.

On top we unroped and hiked back down to the west side where a quick consultation of the guidebook had us starting up West Rib (5.8). Jeremy led the first pitch to the same belay stance we’d used already on Northwest Corner.

After following the pitch I was able to lead the roof pitch on this second pass to the summit. After looking at the strangely-bolted sport climb Brownies In The Basin (5.9+), we decided on West Dihedral – another two pitch 5.8 climb that finished with the same roof as Northwest Corner. A short scramble that we pitched out led to the base of the dihedral which I had a lot of fun climbing into a shaded pocket below the roof.

Then Jeremy took just the light rack of the pieces he needed to get through the roof for our third pass of the day.

Finding it was now beer:thirty we scooted back across the tyrolean and off to Mountain Sun for suds.

Complete photo album

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Hunter Creek

Between yesterday’s long hike of Mount Sopris and our need to drive back to the Front Range tonight, we decided to embark on an mellower jaunt today. Tara decided to lead me up Aspen’s Hunter Creek.

We soon put some distance on the local Aspenites and their flamboyant hats (there’s a coffee table book begging to be created) as we hiked alongside the creek.

Once the valley opened up we visited some old farm houses.

A little more up-valley hiking brought us to another bridge and we started to loop our way back via the observation deck overlooking Aspen itself.

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After a day in Breckenridge Tara and I headed over towards Aspen via Independence Pass, a route I’d managed to avoid driving in the years I’ve lived in Colorado. We had to stop and enjoy at least one rock climb along the way, the local classic “Twin Cracks” (5.8).

After passing through Aspen we continued further down valley and then drove back roads to the Thomas Lakes trailhead below towering Mount Sopris.

Camping near the trailhead we woke just before dawn to fry a few eggs and make some coffee. Bathed in early morning light we started up the trail. Tara was going light with a running pack, but had also attempted to sqeeze a 3L bladder into the small pack. While hiking I detached the crampon pouch from my pack and added a bit of support to the bladder.

My desire to solve problems satisfied, we continued through the aspen groves and open meadows of the lower portion of this hike.

After rounding the Thomas Lakes friendly trail signs kept us headed in the right direction.

Hiking switchbacks we neared treeline with views back down at the lakes.

Following the faint path through talus fields, then along a narrow ridge we eventually crested a false summit with the way clear ahead to Mount Sopris.

Other than the wind picking up, there was little to complain about on this beautiful day.

Near the summit we were even tempted to run a bit.

30 minutes of rest on the summit couldn’t restore our jumping legs after hiking six miles and 4,000 feet. Our attempts at timing a summit jumping shot fell laughingly short.

The break did restore enough of our energy that the west summit seemed within reach. The gain and loss of about 300 feet and unstable rocks did wear us out a bit, but the west summit was refreshingly quiet after hanging with the crowds on the east peak.

Hiking back we contoured around the main summit to hit the trail again with only a bit more uphill to the false summit.

Tired legs weren’t enjoying the 4,000 feet of descent, but the views and thoughts of cold beverages at the trailhead kept up our spirits.

Complete photo album

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